June 8, 2012 |
Nothing new in the world? Nothing left to discover? NASA would beg to differ. The discovery of an "enormous, off-the-charts" bloom of microscopic marine plants in the Arctic has floored scientists. And it confirms, if nothing else, that there are things on this planet not yet seen -- things that you "never, ever could have anticipated in a million years. " So says Paula Bontempi of NASA. An ocean biology and biogeochemistry program manager in Washington, Bontempi spoke with the Los Angeles Times on Friday morning about the discovery. Here's how it came about: Over the summers of 2010 and 2011, NASA's Icescape expedition was exploring the Arctic waters of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas off Alaska.
July 7, 2012 |
Bipedal robots, in general, are a pretty stilted bunch. Their movements are overarticulated, they wobble, they topple, and when faced with an obstacle -- even one as slight as a slope change -- they often can't overcome it. But that may soon change. This week, researchers from the Univeristy of Arizona published a paper in the Journal of Neural Engineering that describes the development of a new type of robot legs that mimic the neuromuscular architecture of human walking.
March 20, 2013 |
Ladies and gentlemen, the Voyager 1 spacecraft has left the solar system - or has it? Scientists are continuing to debate whether the lonesome craft has finally escaped the solar system after 35 years of travel or has simply entered a previously unknown region of solar influence. On Wednesday, a study published in Geophysical Research Letters , a journal of the American Geophysical Union, suggests that the Voyager spacecraft exited the heliosphere - that region of space dominated by solar winds and long considered to be the edge of the solar system - on Aug. 25, 2012.
April 3, 2013 |
Let that long-held breath out, folks. The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer has picked up a lot of mysterious antimatter in low Earth orbit - but that doesn't necessarily mean it's a sign of dark matter. In fact, even with the 400,000 positrons picked up by the cosmic-ray experiment -- the largest number of such particles ever analyzed in space -- it's unclear whether those positrons result from decaying dark matter, or simply from pulsars sending particles into the universe. "What you have probably seen from the data is a significant new measurement," said Brown University physicist Richard Gaitskell, a lead scientist on a different dark matter detector called the Large Underground Xenon experiment.
July 24, 2012 |
Do polar bears face obliteration as a species, not from starvation as the northern ice melts but through interbreeding with brown bears as changes in the climate bring them into contact with each other? Authors of a new report say that's a distinct possibility. The closest relative of the polar bear is the brown bear - matings between grizzlies and polar bears sometimes happen in zoos or the wild, yielding very rare examples of hybrids known as grolar bears or pizzlies. Webb Miller of Pennsylvania State University and colleagues set out to examine the timing of the divergence between the two species, using a whole mess of DNA data - from contemporary brown bears, polar bears and black bears as well as from a polar bear that lived 110,000 to 130,000 years ago. (The ancient DNA was obtained from a jawbone found in Norway.)
January 28, 2013 |
A team of storm-chasing scientists sampling rarefied air has found a world of bacteria and fungi floating about 30,000 feet above Earth. The findings, detailed Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that microbes have the potential to affect the weather. Scientists have long studied airborne bacteria, but they typically do so from the ground, often trekking to mountain peaks to examine microbes in fresh snow. Beyond that, they don't know much about the number and diversity of floating microbes, said study coauthor Athanasios Nenes, an atmospheric scientist at Georgia Tech.
December 20, 2012 |
Why are our hands the shape that they are? Compared with those of other apes, the thumb is longer and the palms and fingers are short. Scientist have a variety of ideas as to why they evolved to be that way: --The comparatively longer thumb allows us so much more dexterity, permitting us to make tools. --The proportions of the hand may be the indirect consequence of natural selection for a foot with a long toe, so handy for keeping balance while walking. (Hand and foot development occur along very similar lines, and many of the same molecules are involved.
October 17, 2009 |
Is 2012 the end of the world? If you scan the Internet or believe the marketing campaign behind the movie "2012," scheduled for release in November, you might be forgiven for thinking so. Dozens of books and fake science websites are prophesying the arrival of doomsday that year, by means of a rogue planet colliding with the Earth or some other cataclysmic event. Normally, scientists regard Internet hysteria with nothing more than a raised eyebrow and a shake of the head. But a few scientists have become so concerned at the level of fear they are seeing that they decided not to remain on the sidelines this time.
August 1, 2013 |
Long before scientists began to study global warming, author Raymond Chandler described the violent effects of dry, "oven-hot" Santa Ana winds gusting through the city of Los Angeles. "Every booze party ends in a fight," he wrote in his 1938 story "Red Wind. " "Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husband's necks. Anything can happen. " While social commentators have long suggested that extreme heat can unleash the beast in man, formal study of the so-called heat hypothesis - the theory that high temperatures fuel aggressive and violent behavior - is relatively new. Using examples as disparate as road rage, ancient wars and Major League Baseball, scientists have taken early steps to quantify the potential influence of climate warming on human conflict.
May 22, 2013 |
It's time to face the fungal foot facts: On average, each one of us is currently walking around with 100 types of fungi living on the soles of our feet, in between our toes, and on our toenails, according to a new study. It may sound gross, but that fungal diversity doesn't have to be a bad thing -- especially if healthy fungus populations can keep bad fungi at bay, like the kind that causes Athlete's foot or toenail scaling. "Skin bacteria and fungi have gotten a bum rap," said Julie Segre, a geneticist at the Human Genome Research Institute and the lead author of the study , published Wednesday in the journal Nature.